How to Find Out if My Father Left Me Any Assets

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to Find Out if My Father Left Me Any Assets

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

If your father has passed away, you are probably entitled to receive a share of their assets. What this share consists of depends on various factors including the decedent's wishes, whether your father left behind a surviving spouse, and whether you have siblings. In order to determine if your deceased father left you any assets, you will first need to find out if he created a will. If not, you will need to proceed according to intestacy laws.

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Option 1: Locate the Will

If your deceased father created a will during his lifetime, he will likely have left a copy of the will with his attorney. The will should name an executor, who is responsible for managing a deceased individual's estate and distributing assets to the decedent's beneficiaries. Generally, the executor must obtain a copy of the will upon death, contact the beneficiaries, and conduct a hearing where the executor reads the will. The executor is required to notify you of any inheritance. If there is no executor, you can ask the court to assign you as the executor of your father's estate.

The executor is also responsible for navigating probate on behalf of the estate. Probate is the official legal process through which an estate pays off its debts and distributes all remaining assets to the decedent's heirs and/or beneficiaries. If the decedent's estate goes through probate, the executor must file the will with the probate court located in the county in which your father resided at the time of death. Even if the estate does not go through probate, the executor must still file your father's will with the county.

To determine if your father left a will, you can contact his attorney, executor, or the applicable probate court. You should also check your father's records and see if he kept a copy of the will. If he has left you anything, it should be written in the will. A probate attorney can also help guide you through the process if you're feeling overwhelmed.

Option 2: Apply State Intestacy Law

If your father died without a will, you may still inherit some of his assets. When an individual dies without a will, called dying "intestate," their assets are distributed according to state intestacy laws. These intestacy laws provide for distribution to the decedent's spouse (if any), children, and closest relatives according to a tiered system.

Laws vary by state but generally, if the decedent died without a spouse, their assets are distributed to their children in equal shares. If your parent died without a surviving spouse, and you are an only child, you will inherit the estate.

If your parent died with a surviving spouse, most of his or her assets will likely go to the spouse. This is because, in most states, all community property (assets acquired during the marriage) goes to the surviving spouse and up to half of separate property (assets the decedent owned outside of the marriage) will go to the surviving spouse, with the rest distributed equally to the decedent's children.

An adopted child will inherit the same way as a biological child. Generally, however, stepchildren will not inherit pursuant to intestacy laws. If you were born outside of marriage, you will inherit the same as any other child if your biological mother passes away, but you may need to show proof of paternity to inherit from a biological father.

If your father died intestate, the court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate and distribute his assets according to state intestacy laws. You may be chosen as the estate administrator if he died without a surviving spouse. Finally, you should check unclaimed property lists for the state in which your deceased father lived. States maintain a database of assets that go unclaimed after death.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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